Friday, January 14, 2011

Unknown Chicago: The Blizzard of 1979 (1-14-1979)

Traffic snarl from Unknown Chicago

Believe it or not in one of my albums there are plenty of pictures of my parents cleaning snow from this blizzard. Thanks to the Unknown Chicago blog I know more about this blizzard. Politically this snowstorm meant the different between incumbent Mayor Michael Bilandic and the eventual Mayor Jane Byrne. There is a comparison between two snowstorms approximately 12 years apart the 1967 & then 1979. I found this quote telling:
Okay--so in 1979, the city had three days to clean up.  And by Tuesday, everything was back to normal.

No, it wasn't.  As soon as the snow started coming down, Mayor Michael Bilandic was all over TV, talking about the heroic job his administration was doing in this weather emergency.  But the public could see he was wrong.  The snow was not getting cleared.

The City That Works wasn't working.  Mike Royko, the newspaper columnist, put the blame squarely on the mayor.  According to Royko, city crews didn't know how to deal with the snow because their skills were too specialized--specialized in cranking out votes at election time.  That was the real job of Chicago payrollers.

Bilandic was running for re-election.  He was being challenged in the Democrat primary by Jane Byrne.  Now Byrne began hammering Bilandic about snow removal.  In one of her commercials, she was filmed with snowflakes falling around her.

Byrne's message connected with the voters.  Six weeks after the blizzard, she beat Bilandic in the primary, then went on to win the general election.
In 1979 Chicago's Democratic Machine didn't serve the city very well. Royko earned his pay back then, that line in bold was priceless. Needless to say though the Machine couldn't save Bilandic back in 1979 as he didn't serve his own full term as mayor.

1 comment:

Fargo said...

I remember the 1979 blizzard very well. That was a great winter for cross country skiing, which I'd just learned, and for entertaining politics.

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